In a little under one month since its release, the Netflix original documentary “Making a Murderer” has taken America by storm. The 10-part series was released on December 18, 2015, just in time for the holidays. The filmmakers take viewers on a nearly 30 year journey, beginning with Steven Avery’s 1985 conviction for sexual assault. After spending 18 years in prison, he was exonerated thanks to the advances in DNA evidence. A mere two years later, Avery was arrested again and charged in the death and mutilation of a Manitowoc photographer, Teresa Halbach. The documentary goes behind the scenes of the investigation and trial by Avery’s legal team and offers viewers an unprecedented look at how defense attorneys attack a case.
Initial Reviews are Positive for “Making a Murderer”
One of the first reviews of the series came from the New York Times. In what was a very positive review, the Times notes that the filmmakers’ attention to detail leaves viewers on the edge of their seat throughout the series. The filmmakers rely heavily on local news broadcasts and interviews with the defense team to work through transitions instead of a narrator. While this might be unique, it allows the story to be told as if it were happening on local television in the present day. In general, many of the initial reviews of the series were positive and likely led to its popularity.
“Making a Murderer” Fever
Thanks to the series being released one week before Christmas, many viewers were able to watch the entire series over the holidays. It was nearly impossible to go out in public or see friends and not talk about the series. The series has brought significant attention to Manitowoc County, the sheriff department, and the attorneys who played pivotal roles in the case. Avery’s defense team has received nearly universal acclaim for their effort diligence in defending Avery. Conversely, the special prosecutor, who is now in private practice, had to suspend his Yelp page and has actually received death threats. The Manitowoc County Clerk of Courts has also been inundated with requests to see portions of the trial exhibits. One woman from Australia has gone as far as requesting the entire transcript from the trial.
The series has also led to jurors speaking out, both for and against the verdict. Our own Attorney Matthew Meyer was interviewed by 620 WTMJ on the topic of jurors swapping votes. While almost impossible to know how often jurors swap votes in the jury room, any time a jury does not focus solely on the evidence and each charge individually, the process is called into question.
What’s next for Avery?
Nearly 130,000 signatures were collected and sent to President Obama asking him to grant a pardon to Avery and co-defendant Brendan Dassey. Unfortunately for the two, the presidential pardoning power does not extend to individuals convicted of state criminal offenses. Avery’s state appeals have been exhausted at this point, though a Chicago law firm has taken up an appeal that Avery has filed pro-se. The general consensus is that the only way Avery’s conviction can be overturned is if there is newly discovered evidence.
What “Making a Murderer” means for you?
Many of the people who watched “Making a Murderer” will never need to speak to a criminal defense attorney. However, it’s nearly impossible to watch and not ask “what if I am wrongly accused of a crime? Will the system protect me?” In a case such as Avery’s, where complicated DNA evidence and false confessions form the basis of the state’s charges, hiring a smart and skilled criminal defense team is of the utmost importance. The attorneys at Van Severen Law Office have the experience to handle every type of case and are not afraid to fight for their clients’ rights. If you or a loved one is facing charges of any severity, contact us immediately.